Noel Coward's early life is basis for Venom
Friday 23 June 1995
Playwright Phil Willmott is unaccustomed to being placed alongside "dear Jane", yet in his latest play Venom (below right), he too has spurned creating a sympathetic leading character. "I wanted to create a really good stage villain. Audiences love them." He should know. A couple of year ago he re-worked Othello from a new perspective, renaming it Iago. "Villains need ambition, sex and wit. I tried to find a contemporary character to work from but we don't have villains now, we have monsters."
Eventually, he hit upon the idea of using the early life of Noel Coward as the skeleton of the piece while creating a character of his own. Venom tells the tale of Clive Gosling who, like Coward, trades on talent, wit and personal magnetism. Gosling is also homosexual, so is this a thinly- disguised attack on Coward and his closeted life? After all, a script reader at the Royal Court sent the script back saying that the writer was deeply homophobic. Willmott finds the idea very funny. "There is enormous pressure to write "good" gay characters. Villains are very rare. Black theatre has managed it in the last few years but we haven't. You have responsibilities as a writer though and I've written loads of nice, fluffy gay characters. You know the type: caring, social working, Judy Garland- listening gay men. It's a relief to be able to move right away from that. I think the character is compelling. You may not like him but the play certainly wouldn't induce an audience to dislike all gays. It's not my intention to do a Coward-bashing, I'm a huge fan. Venom is a love letter, but it's written in poison."
`Venom' previews at the Drill Hall, WC1 (0171 -637 8270) from tonight and opens on Tuesday.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Syrian refugee child beaten by Istanbul Burger King manager for eating customer’s leftover food
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners